Monday, September 4, 2017

The Bold Type Season 1 Mini-Review

We at least need to check out your vageen (yes this is a word-for-word direct quote, spelling and all)

What is it? Hour-long domestic/workplace drama on Freeform
Who stars in it? Katie Stevens from Faking It (which I understand is a very similar workplace femme-focused drama), Aisha Dee who seems to have had a number of significant roles with various other shows and Meghann Fahy (yes her name's spelled corrected) in which this seems to be her first major starring role on a TV series and may I add, yes as a redhead is quite a stunner ^_^
Where does it air? Freeform, which tries to advertise itself as Disney Channel but for cool older kids. It's actual success at it seems somewhat mixed especially now that Pretty Little Liars has bowed out (indeed, a few of their hopeful similarly-themed PLL replacements seems to have arrived with massive, dead thuds and TBT seems to be a turn towards a different direction, but more on that).
Why are we reviewing this? Well, we'll get into that.

...man, what a frustrating show to watch.

I was really looking forward to this when I first heard about it - yes, the "incredibly sexy women working at basically Cosmo" was a hook, but what I'm really interested in is "incredibly sexy women become well-rounded characters and legitimate feminist pioneers in an industry that, while seem as being dominated by women, still largely cater to men's interests, especially financially and sexually and start breaking barriers and changing cultures" which is practically this show's tagline (I'm sure the real one is less long-winded). This is one of my favorite genres in young adult lit and adult lit books aimed at younger 20-somethings (and I'm not afraid to admit I loved The Devil Wears Prada) and it was exciting to see something like this, a "what if in The Devil Wears Prada Anne Hathaway's character just refuses to take any bullshit whatsoever from literally Day 1?" as a regular, weekly series in 1080p glory.

Unfortunately, the series we actually get doesn't quite pan out that way. There are hints of pioneering feminism and fierce independence here and there, but all-in-all I feel the show is exactly seeped in the same male dominance the characters are allegedly trying to fight. The main trio are constantly trying to push for more articles of substance, are constantly being pushed back by demands they write articles that glorify women as sex objects and little more and...really, I think the series has our main trio simply cave too much and celebrate it as a victory. There's some interesting LGB...well, L issues being explored and while it manages to rise above "the only reason this show even has lesbians, or a kinda-sorta-maybe lesbian, is because the hetero guys think it's hot" (kinda) quite frankly that's not enough nowadays, when even Doc McStuffins and Good Luck Charlie can have lesbians portrayed in a positive or at least neutral light and while I don't mind lesbians expressly showing interest in being romanced (that kinda is the whole point of being a lesbian, or being hetero or anywhere on the sexuality spectrum aside from asexual, after all) or even being objectified, that objectification has to come with some justification. Aisha's character - Kat - does indeed have that justification, and I'm not saying it's weak, I'm saying it feels weak relative to other portrayals of lesbians I've seen on television. The bar's just simply moved, and it feels like Freeform's keeping up only with the absolute bare minimum just so they can say, hey, we're with the times.

And as for our remaining two heroines, Jane and Sutton...they do kinda-sorta feel like minimally spiced-up The Devil Wears Prada copy-pasta jobs.

I know the professional reviewers rave about this, especially from reviewers who at least claim to actually be from this exact type of magazine background and say that this is practically 100% accurate. I don't doubt that accuracy...and that's what scares me. I specifically want to see strong women, but it feels like the show's trying to handwave and convince us that these women have strength when I don't really see it. That's what makes it absolutely disheartening and frustrating to watch, and I really, really hope that the professional women working in actual magazines are better able t express opinions regarding distasteful articles and practices in favor of ones that might better appeal to other professional women and make professional women realize that these articles actually have substance and of use instead of basically advertising oneself as a sex object. And again, there's nothing wrong with expressing sexuality, whether with oneself or with another - but Kat and Sutton's quest to give Jane her first orgasm just comes off as incredibly awkward and even downright comfortable.

I don't know. Maybe it's just because I'm not a woman. We have, like, a single female commentator here and I don't know if it's enough to really get to know if my feelings and assessment here is legitimate or not. Aside from just going by the ratings, which so far isn't great and even worse (actually much worse) than two one-and-done series canceled from last year, Guilt and Dead of Summer.

So, uh, well I guess no mini-review of Season 2 then :(


Season Grade: C+-ish to B minus-ish, I'm leaving a lot of wiggle room to account for "maybe I just don't get it," but I stand by saying that I still feel wanting more than "women romp around working for a glorified sex magazine." I was going to add "and celebrate at the end of every episode just for surviving another day" but if it really was about that I think I would've kept watching.
Season MVP: But I will say it's very well-cast and all the actors are top-notch and very believable. Any of these women could very well get it, but I'm giving it to Meghann Fahy because she's really drop-dead gorgeous. Really, she's one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen in my life, I mean it. Not that the other women aren't absolutely to-die-for gorgeous either.

...and now that I'm actually reading what I'm typing, I realized I kinda self-defeated that whole "I wish this was actually more feminist" rant.

Extra Thoughts

 - wow, that really didn't end up being all that much of a mini-rant after all, didn't it?

 - In case you're wondering what I think of Freeform in general...eh. Shadowhunters is...eh, with an insanely hot redhead in it. PLL is...fucking bonkers, with an extremely hot daughter of a bigshot TV executive producer in it. Beyond that I don't even know of any shows that made the ABC Family/Freeform transition or premiered since. I'll always associate ABC Family/Freeform with The Secret Life of the American Teenager, the show AV Club claimed was invented by aliens with only a minimal, fragile grasp on what the human species is actually like. 

Well...there is one show I've seen, the reality-docu Cheer Squad which...I really, really liked. Professional cheerleading (yes it's a real sport/thing) may not have the most feminist street cred (and I know I severely damaged mine throughout the course of this review) but it's really interesting seeing just how hard these women work and just how intense it is, but sadly it doesn't seem to have been renewed (it premiered around this time last year).

 - Hopefully we'll actually have a Descendants 2 review tomorrow. And it only took us, what, a month and a half?

- Oh, and so is I Am Frankie. This is actually a series I've really been looking forward to since it was announced. Then again I seem to have a disproportionate fondness for these imported/semi-imported shows, whether single-cam or multi-cam (as was the case with Every Witch Way/WITS Academy/Talia in the Kitchen which I have an extreme disproportionate fondness for).

 - Hope you're enjoying your Labor Day! I'm...choking from smoke from forest fires literally thousands of miles away. Yay.

 - I'm not even joking Every Witch Way was pretty much my 2014/2015 now that I think about it.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Doc McStuffins Reviewed: "The Emergency Plan"/"What a Quack"

She's going to make a fantastic toy ducktor! Oh, I mean doctor!

What is it? CGI-animated A-B format (two 11-minute episodes per half hour) cartoon 
Where did it air? Both the Disney Junior block on Disney Channel and the dedicated Disney Junior channel.
Who stars in it? There's certainly a lot of yeoman voice talent going around, but regular readers of this blog will recognize Laya DeLeon Hayes as the voice of Doc McStuffins herself and as Priya from Liv and Maddie: Cali Style!
Why are we reviewing this? Eh, beyond our children's TV reviews-with-swear bombs mission statement there's not much to really offer other than why not?

Doc McStuffins is usually recognized as one of the best shows on Disney Junior right now, and with really good reason - much has been made about its inclusivity and medical accuracy in a way that can be introduced to children, but none of that would mean a hill of beans if it just wasn't that damn good. Between Elena of Avalor which...well, admittedly is also just damn good, Sofia the First which is just simply too princess-y for my tastes to tolerate, and PJ Masks which...yes I know it's based on a French comic but it really just strikes me as a pale imitation of something you might find on Nickelodeon like say PAW Patrol or a certain other French-based cartoon...at the very least Doc McStuffins is fighting with Elena as the two best shows on Disney Junior right now, even if by default.

That said...I really liked the first few seasons a whole lot better before the "move" to McStuffinsville Toy Hospital. The show just felt more interesting while the new season feels anti-climatic (yes really) and more paint-by-numbers in comparison. I'm not really sure why it's just that...being in a town full of animated toys just feels much less interesting than being a regular ole' toy doctor, I guess.

We have our first episode, The Emergency Plan which loyal reader Shipping Wars are Stupid kinda-sorta brought up in our Harry Hook blog post since it features a family with two moms and...well, if it weren't for the fact that the big toy dragon keeps using the word moms instead of parents, that's the only evidence I have that convinces me that the writers and animators themselves didn't just outright forget these were same-sex parents. Some of you may feel that's a major win because it gives normalcy to same-sex parents, some of you may feel it's a missed opportunity because it doesn't lead to a much bigger discussion about diversity during a time when, boy howdy do we need it. 

I really honestly feel like these are two female mom-parents because no duh they're dolls, what the hell else are they gonna be? Everyone knows the guy dolls are lame anyway! My point being is, the fact that they happen to be both moms in the same family feels more a function of them just being dolls rather than pointing out diversity in family make-ups to me, which is why I'm not even bothering to refer to them as lesbians. I was going to argue that them being dolls makes them feel like they belong more on the "+" side as opposed to the "L" side of the LGBTQ+ spectrum, but not even that - the fact that this is contextualized as dolls and toys really makes it feel like it falls far outside that spectrum, or any sexual spectrum whatsoever. It just...doesn't really feel contextualized in a way that makes me feel positive about diversity. Don't get me wrong, it doesn't feel like a negative depiction of diversity either, it just feels...perfectly neutral.

...which I suppose is appropriate because that's really how the rest of the episode feels. It's just...well, neutral. Stuff happens, and it's pretty obvious that this episode doesn't really have much about diversity as it does emergency preparedness (hence the episode), which granted is especially topical now. But it really does feel like a PSA with Doc McStuffins characters extended into an 11-minute episode.

In some ways that's my least favorite "Junior"-genre episode because I grew up in a time when that's all we got from the age ranges of say 7 and younger. It feels not only lazy, but obligatory in a take it and like it approach. That said, well, it's ok here I guess.

And the B-episode, "What a Quack"...starts out more interestingly with actual conflict!, but that conflict deflates quickly in what I feel is an extremely anti-climatic chase scene. From there it's...really more PSA.

The first few seasons of Doc McStuffins were not this PSA-y, trust me.

Episodes Grades: C+ for both.
Episodes MVP: Laya because Priya kicked ass and took names.

Extra Thoughts- 

 - yeah, it freaks me out that the dolls have more human proportions than the actual human who barely towers over them.

The Bold Type Season 1 Mini-Review

We at least need to check out your vageen (yes this is a word-for-word direct quote, spelling and all) What is it?  Hour-long domestic/wor...